kitchen table math, the sequel: State of play, Common Core edition

Saturday, October 26, 2013

State of play, Common Core edition

Parents are in an uproar here.

We've hired a curriculum director who is a smart, fantastically hard-working true believer in the wisdom of mini-lessons and students designing their own "literacy" curriculum by choosing their own books to read for class and discussing them in pairs or pods.

A smart, fantastically hard-working true believer gets a lot more done than a dull and lazy true believer.

(Ed and I and numerous others fought to keep that position from being filled, by the way. Fought.)

So, where Common Core is concerned--Common Core as understood by a public school curriculum director--we are ahead of the curve.

Which means that after 10 years of strife over Math Trailblazers we have unceremoniously dumped Trailblazers and adopted the engageny math modules, which are being written and posted as we speak. No teacher has ever taught engageny math, no student has ever learned engageny math, engageny math does not yet exist in toto, and the vast set of engageny material has to be downloaded from the internet.

And this is what we're using.

Because, you know, COMMON CORE.

Those are the magic words, COMMON CORE. Once an administrator invokes the name of COMMON CORE, s/he is absolved of all responsibility for children actually learning math.

So here we are:
  1. The children have no math textbooks
  2. Because Trailblazers was so slow, children in later grades don't have the skills to begin grade-level engageny units, but they have all been forced to begin grade-level engageny units anyway, regardless of preparation
  3. Because we've never had a scope and sequence for any subject in the district (this state of affairs finally came to light at the last board meeting, after I requested a copy of our scope and sequence) no one has any idea what skills the kids are supposed to possess 
  4. Because the district has never held itself responsible for children actually learning the content being covered in class (and retaught at home by parents & tutors) there is no mechanism in place to figure out what skills kids are missing
  5. Because no one apart from high school math teachers has any expertise in math, neither teachers, building principals, nor the curriculum director has any idea what the proper sequence of skills actually is & thus no idea how to assess the kids' "gaps" (lots of gaps talk amongst parents and teachers; calls to mind the early days of ktm
  6. Although engageny promises a year-long "scope and sequence" for its curriculum "modules," the promised scope and sequence for math either: a) does not yet exist or b) does exist but is unusable by people absent a deep and hands-on knowledge of K-5 math and math curricula.
I attended Thursday night's Common Core meeting, and the atmosphere in the room was pretty much one of controlled pandemonium.

No one knows anything, and, very clearly, no one is going to know anything any time soon.

I've seen a lot of bad math teaching in my day (a whole lot), and a lot of bad math curricula, but I've never seen anything like this.

29 comments:

kathyiggy said...

Our district seems kind of similar. I had not seen an everyday math worksheet or test all year for my second grader so I asked at parent teacher conference whether em is still used. Answer was "kind of" since EM spirals and common core doesn't allow that so it appears they are only pulling lessons randomly from EM that covers the one topic they are working on. They are using XML and Xtramath online as the rest of the curriculum. There has been no parent meeting about any of this except to say that our state test score cut offs have increased. But even that is not consistent. My 8th grader's MAP test scores are in the 94th percentile for reading but the state test scores are "meets" rather than "exceeds". It is impossible to make sense of any of this.

Catherine Johnson said...

Hi Kathy -

What are XML and Xtramath?

We have a nightmare here.

Catherine Johnson said...

Around these parts, math textbooks seem to be disappearing. The boy I tutored in Ardsley didn't have one; his class just used the test prep book.

Debbie S says that the head of the math tutoring outfit she has used there (NYC) told her that more and more kids are coming in without textbooks.

kathyiggy said...

It's IXL actually. It's online practice for math for K-12. It's similar to aleks. They started using it at the junior high a few years ago and now it's spread into elementary. Junior high began tracking in math at the same time and also got rid of EM for 6th grade, which the jr high teachers appreciated. Now there are 3 tracks but very few get the highest one which is algebra in 7th. Xtra math is just math facts practice which they are doing since common core requires addition and subtraction facts mastered by the end of 2nd grade. My head spins from all the curricular changes over the last 10 years. For each of my kids elementary curriculum has been totally different--the 3 girls are 5 years apart and we now have no cursive instruction, very little grammar, no reading textbook, and we are on our third different spelling and third different writing program.

Laura in AZ said...

This sounds like an absolute nightmare. Makes me so glad I started homeschooling when I did... and that I can keep homeschooling.

I remember when my DD came home with that one 4th grade math worksheet - and I couldn't do the problems. I didn't even understand the questions. My note to the teacher of basically "What the heck?" was met by... Crickets. Nothing... never heard a word. I was ignored by the teacher over and over... so glad to be paying private school tuition to be ignored. *sigh* New then, bad things were coming.

I don't even know how parents handle this Common Core stuff... my patience for bureaucratic crap has gone down to nil. Bless you all for your efforts on this!!!

Laura

Catherine Johnson said...

Laura - that was a private school???

Well, I shouldn't be surprised.

lgm said...

Our high school math texts are all AMSCO. None are issued unless the parent requests. JMAP dot org has them available on line.

Laura in AZ said...

Catherine... Yes. It was a private Parochial school. It was the so called "New and Improved" math program that the Curriculum Committee pushed through - w/o comment from the rest of the parents even being allowed to comment on (meeting was held in secret). This was after years of complaint about how bad the "Old" math program was. (It was mediocre to sorta bad - not Trailblazers of Everyday Math bad though! LOL)

The curriculum was by Pearson (if I remember right) - and I only saw the book once... it introduced that lattice multiplication in 4th grade on a side bar of the text. Even though they were covering simple division (I think??? I don't remember). I just remember not being able to understand the word problem and neither could my husband who is much better in math than I.

The more I've read about Common Core, the more it bothers, even scares me. It's like going in for a hangnail and coming out with a Lobotomy! I don't like "officials" telling me what is best for me or my child, or not being willing to answer my questions. I don't like all the data collecting and sharing with private companies and/or government entities who have no business with that sort of information about my child or our family. There are so many things wrong with the standards of CC - not just the math, but reading and science, not to mention the social studies, which can't even be agreed upon. It's a disaster that we haven't seen the full extent of yet.

Laura

Anonymous said...

"I don't like "officials" telling me what is best for me or my child, or not being willing to answer my questions. I don't like all the data collecting and sharing with private companies and/or government entities who have no business with that sort of information about my child or our family."

Then you should be homeschooling, which is something Catherine said she would do if she could do it again.

Anonymous with a Brain said...

"Then you should be homeschooling, which is something Catherine said she would do if she could do it again" Well, "Anonymous," maybe you should read before you post. Laura already said she is homeschooling. Epic fail.

Laura in AZ said...

Um... yeah. Been homeschooling for over 5 years now. Wouldn't go back now, even if I could afford private high school now (which I can't).

Even though I am homeschooling, I still have an interest in public schooling, as it affects everyone in the community (and I pay taxes). Common Core affects homeschoolers as well - how long before we are required to adhere to these ridiculous guidelines?

Laura

Jason said...

If a school declares that they are committing to Common Core, then shouldn't the scope & sequence just be taken straight from the CCSS documents?

At least for scope. The CCSS doesn't specify that it is necessary to deliver instruction in the order of the numbered standards. I expect that most "Common Core aligned" textbooks will probably just replicate that order, though.

My impression from reading the Common Core materials is that they the standards at least as clear as any other elementary math scope documents.

So then at a school board meeting, instead of asking to see a district S&S document, you could stand up and ask something like "when will the fourth grade be addressing standard 4.OA.O.3 [Solve multistep word problems posed with whole numbers blah blah blah]"? (You'll probably still get an unsatisfactory answer, but at least it will be very specific unsatisfactory answer:-)

Anonymous said...

Laura: "I don't like all the data collecting and sharing with private companies and/or government entities who have no business with that sort of information about my child or our family.

Common Core affects homeschoolers as well - how long before we are required to adhere to these ridiculous guidelines?"

Me, too.

I'm actually more worried about the data tracking, as documented here:

"a $100 million database built to chart the academic paths of public school students from kindergarten through high school.

In operation just three months, the database already holds files on millions of children identified by name, address and sometimes social security number. Learning disabilities are documented, test scores recorded, attendance noted. In some cases, the database tracks student hobbies, career goals, attitudes toward school - even homework completion.

Local education officials retain legal control over their students' information. But federal law allows them to share files in their portion of the database with private companies selling educational products and services.

Entrepreneurs can't wait.

...

Schools do not need parental consent to share student records with any 'school official' who has a "legitimate educational interest," according to the Department of Education. The department defines 'school official' to include private companies hired by the school, so long as they use the data only for the purposes spelled out in their contracts.

The database also gives school administrators full control over student files, so they could choose to share test scores with a vendor but withhold social security numbers or disability records."

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/03/us-education-database-idUSBRE92204W20130303

But I also wonder how long before *EVERYONE* gets forced into a "one size fits all" education. In my view, this is not a good place to go ... but I'm expecting a lot of push to get there :-(

-Mark Roulo

Froggiemama said...

The data collection has been going on since NCLB started, and will be with us, Common Core or now. These are separate issues and should not be conflated.

Froggiemama said...

The "now" above should read "not".

The data collection is necessary for data driven evaluation of teachers and schools. I am not sure why people are surprised.

Anonymous said...

"The data collection has been going on since NCLB started, and will be with us..."

There has been a national master database for grades, hobbies, etc since 2001?????

-Mark Roulo

Anonymous said...

One is reminded of the movie Michael Collins. Collins asks one of his lieutenants why the British authorities always seems to know what Collins's Irish rebels are going to do.

"They even know what we eat for breakfast" replied the lieutenant.

"There's only one way to defeat them, then," says Collins. "Find out what they eat for breakfast."

Tim to start keeping a database on everyone involved in implementing Common Core.

Catherine Johnson said...

Jason - You have not been to a school board meeting in my town!

I'm going to try to get some word-for-words at the next BOE meeting.

And I wish to heck I had a transcript of the blather the night my friend & BOE member JM tried to find out why we have 5 "literacy specialists" in a district of 1800 kids. (5 or 5.75....something like that. We've got a whole lot of struggling readers.)

when will the fourth grade be addressing standard 4.OA.O.3 [Solve multistep word problems posed with whole numbers blah blah blah]"? (You'll probably still get an unsatisfactory answer, but at least it will be very specific unsatisfactory answer:-)

Catherine Johnson said...

Jason - You have not been to a school board meeting in my town!

I'm going to try to get some word-for-words at the next BOE meeting.

And I wish to heck I had a transcript of the blather the night my friend & BOE member JM tried to find out why we have 5 "literacy specialists" in a district of 1800 kids. (5 or 5.75....something like that. We've got a whole lot of struggling readers.)

when will the fourth grade be addressing standard 4.OA.O.3 [Solve multistep word problems posed with whole numbers blah blah blah]"? (You'll probably still get an unsatisfactory answer, but at least it will be very specific unsatisfactory answer:-)

concerned said...

Catherine,
I'm so sorry to hear of the chaos in your district. I know that it doesn't make you feel any better knowing that this is happening all over the country. I'm fighting as much as I can here in MO also, but it is going to take a MAJOR grassroots effort w/ citizens from every political position to rid outselves of Common Core Chaos. It only seems to make sense to those who have researched, experience first hand, or blindly follow educratic doctrine. It's really a sad commentary on education in general...
Warmest regards,
Lisa Jones

Catherine Johnson said...

Thanks, Lisa!

Things are actually worse here, I think. We spent years trying to un-seat the superintendent, and the new superintendent, who was supposed to be the One, is looking to be worse.

I was talking to Katie B. today, who said she constantly wonders how these things are possible in a democracy.

I almost have to wonder how democracy is possible---

Catherine Johnson said...

I heard back from the curriculum director today, who tells me that the administration was thrilled to have 100 parents in attendance Thursday night to 'learn' about Common Core.

She used the words "background knowledge" to describe the parents' lack of background knowledge re: Common Core.

Did I tell you all that, after telling the SRO room that parents 'watch TV' and 'go on the internet' and are thus ill-informed, the curriculum director showed us a TV show on Common Core?

A 20-minute promotional video that included the words "In the real world, math problems have more than one right answer."

Catherine Johnson said...

What's going on there?

concerned said...

It's called hegemony... it used to begin in ed school... now it begins in elementary schools... image that...

(I guess you realized my earlier post should have read "those who have NOT researched", and typically their experiences are anecdotal...

same as it ever was!!!

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